Guest Author - Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP
One of the biggest tasks as a parent is finding a pediatrician for your child. If you are a first-time parent, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed in knowing where to begin. Keep in mind that the decision you make today can be changed tomorrow. All you can do is explore your options and pick the person you think will be best for your growing family. And, as your child grows, you can always change groups if you find you need a different type of group or personality.
First, you want to pull together a list of potential pediatrics groups. Your OB/GYN can provide you with a list of pediatricians affiliated with their hospital. You can also search the on-line databases of the local childrenís hospitals and community hospitals in your area for pediatricians on staff. If you know other parents in the area, find out who they use for pediatricians and what they like and donít like about those groups. You can whittle down your list by finding out from your insurance company what pediatricians are covered by your plan.
Second, check out the credentials of your potential pediatrician. Most pediatricians are Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics (designated FAAP) and that information can be found on the AAPís web site. Your Stateís Board of Medical Examiners can also provide you with a nutshell of your potential pediatrician including training information, board certification information and prior malpractice claim settlements.
If you are interested in meeting a potential pediatrician, most offices offer a Meet and Greet visit for this purpose. These visits are great ways to see the office in action, meet the staff and have a few minute of unhurried time with your potential pediatrician.
There are two types of basic pediatric visits:
1. well child visits
2. sick visits
Well child visits are the nuts and bolts visits: basic measurements and developmental assessments, immunizations, identification of potential problems. During infancy, these visits are crucial in making sure your infant is thriving appropriately and in helping you prepare for the next stage of development. Sick visits basically cover everything else Ė rashes, cold symptoms, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or just not acting right.
You will be spending a great deal of time at your pediatricianís office between sick visits and well child care so it is important you feel comfortable with your pediatrician, the staff and the other pediatric providers in the office. In A to Z Guide to Pediatric Care and Pediatricians, I cover the myriad of issues your pediatrician can help you with and general office considerations to inquire about. Other issues to consider with choosing a pediatrician include:
1. Do you want a male or female pediatrician, or do you have no preference?
2. How many pediatricians are in the office?
3. Does the office use nurse practitioners or physician assistants?
4. What is the after-hours arrangement for questions and sick care?
5. What hours is the office open? Does that work for your work situation and childcare?
While you are expecting, you may not have enough information or experience to really know what sort of pediatrician to pick. In that case, picking one of the bigger groups in the area may be the best place to start and you can examine other options after your baby is born.